Fifth graders at Church Lane Elementary participated in multiple activities surrounding the language arts unit “Transformative Ideas”. Students in 5th grade have been reading, writing, and researching about inventions that have not only transformed over the years but have transformed the way people live their lives. Students were first assigned partners and then were given the option to research either the phonograph, television, or airplane. Each pair had to read an article and watch a video about how their chosen invention was similar and different from when it was first created to nowadays. After their research was complete, students had to work to create a visual presentation using either Glogster, Wixie, or Popplet to display their findings on the classroom bulletin board. When student pairs completed their visual presentation of information, they got to create 3D models of either the original or newer model of their invention. With the help of some faculty members and the students themselves, recyclable materials such as toilet paper rolls, water bottles, and shoeboxes were brought in for the students to use to build their models. Students researched a picture of the model they needed to replicate and then used their creativity to build the invention. A few pairs were chosen to present their research and models at Church Lane’s Night of Innovation for the community to see. As an extension activity, the entire 5th grade met in one classroom to go on a virtual field trip to the Thomas Edison Historical Museum in New Jersey. Through the trip, students were able to see examples of artifacts, machinery, and Thomas Edison’s inventions (including the phonograph!) and ask/answer questions from the tour guide skyping with us!
When I first came to Church Lane, we were in our first year of being a Lighthouse School. I did not know what to expect. Would devices really make learning more meaningful? Would classrooms filled with bean bags, unconventional seating, and student first décor really make an impact on the students’ education? Would providing student choice on almost everything make them more engaged on a daily basis? Would differentiated grouping and tasks be possible and effective? When I first began, I wasn’t so sure. However, after almost a year and a half, I can easily say the answer to all those questions is YES!
What I have come to learn is that S.T.A.T is much more than just 1:1. It is a mindset. A mindset in which teacher and student learn as they go. There are an infinite number of resources, websites, project ideas, etc. available to teachers. I was overwhelmed at first. I did not know where to start. I have come to learn that focusing on implementing one thing at a time is much less of a burden. After some time, I am now familiar with numerous tools, not all technology related, that have made my classroom environment a wonderful one.
Differentiated small groups were new to me as well. Ones that are constantly changing, sometimes within one class period, seemed like it would make my head spin. My clipboard was filled with post-it notes of student names circled, crossed out, and arrows going in every direction. This directly correlates to the S.T.A.T mindset mentioned above. I had to learn as I went. Eventually, it started to become easier. I learned how to create groups. Students learned how to transition between groups. The students and I were aware that groups would be different depending on the day and topic. Once this became routine, it became possible to REALLY differentiate work for my small groups. Students started to become more engaged in their work because it was tailored to their needs. Their choice of how to show their learning started to snowball into ways that I didn’t even know was possible.
“Instead of a Wixie, can I create a Board Builder?”
“After I make my Board Builder, can I add my own voice to describe what is included?”
The list goes on. My greatest challenge, implementing these small groups was that I wanted to be in control of everything. I have learned to take the back seat and let the students drive. When they drive, we all learn.
Reflections from teachers, administrators, and students at the Lighthouse Schools.